Tuesday, May 31, 2005

On The Mark -- "Check," Russia

At first it seemed intriguing. Then I realized playing a game, even a sophisticated game like chess, is not the same thing as real life.

As reported in the LA Times recently, Garry Kasparov, the youngest chess champion in history who was also an undefeated chess champion for 10 years, is entering the game of politics in Russia. Yes, the same Kasparov who dueled to a 1-1 tie with the infamous IBM supercomputer, which has the capability of analyzing 50 billion potential moves in three minutes.

Now he’s identified his next opponent, Russian President Vladimir Putin. So far, Kasparov has only said that he wants to campaign to make sure Putin steps down in 2008 as the current constitution mandates. He fears, like many others, that Putin will re-work the constitution so that he can stay another term, or run the country behind the scenes for four years, then take over again in 2012.

He hasn’t said he actually wants to run for office, but he’s acknowledged that it’s a consideration. On the face of it, it seems that Kasparov would be a worthy opponent. He’s brilliant. Strategic. He’s made his country proud and thus has the general popularity of the people. He also could probably put together a very good campaign, particularly with his ability to be able to think “several moves” in advance.

Yet with the continuing disintegration of democracy in Russia, one has to wonder if Kasparov would actually have the opportunity to make some of those moves. Putin is not the type to wait around to knock over the King in defeat. As the former head of the KGB, he's been known to "think" ahead, too...

Patting Our Collective Backs

There is nothing you can say in answer to a compliment. I have been complimented myself a great many times, and they always embarrass me—I always feel that they have not said enough.
Mark Twain (1835–1910), author

There have been several stories over the months that Toner Mishap offered opinion on, what is most gratifying is that we often lead the mainstream media in regards to commenting or in some cases even reporting. Today’s editorial in the Los Angeles Times by Robert Scheer writes about the death of Pat Tillman and on the lies the Bush gang (in my opinion) knowingly exploited and then covered up. On The Mark, wrote about Pat Tillman’s death on May 23, 2005.

We certainly don’t recommend Toner Mishap over the media, but we do get some self satisfaction on our solid news judgment. That’s it; I don’t want to break my arm patting our backs.

"Luke, I am the Holy Father."

Thanks, Devo!

Bits on Books

I got tagged with this meme by Someguy at Mystery Achievement... so here goes:

1. Total number of books I've owned.
If I don't count the books my wife has (and given her profession and proclivities, that's a massive amount), and if I guesstimate the number that have ben donated to libraries or traded at bookstores... whew. I don't know... maybe 2k? That's probably a low estimate...

2. Last book I bought.
Barbie's Fashion Show and Happy Mother's Day, Mami for my kids. I'm less a buyer than a renter, as I work next door to the central branch of the Los Angeles Public Library... so I read for free!

3. Last book I read.
Barlett and Steele's Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness

4. Five books that mean a lot to me.
Only five? How about the first five that come to mind?
1. The Torah (known to non-Jews as The Old Testament, but for me it's the only Testament)
2. Camus' The Stranger (my wife knows why)
3. Huxley's Brave New World
4. Asimov's Pebble in the Sky (first Asimov book I ever read)
5. Kishon's Unfair to Goliath

5. People who I'll infect with this meme.
The Misanthrope and On The mark, natch -- but I guess they don't count.
Hector Vex
Pirate at apjournal
Dr. Taylor at PoliBlog
Devo at Vitriolic Monkey
Jack at Random Thoughts

Monday, May 30, 2005

On The Mark -- It's Not Even Wrong If You Get Caught

It’s only wrong if you get caught. That was always a feeble rationalization for doing something illegal. Now, with some parents in the Los Angeles area, it’s gotten even worse. For them, it’s not even wrong if you get caught.

Recently, several students at a middle school were suspended for a day, along with other less serious punishments, for cheating on a homework assignment. The teachers caught on when they noticed that several of the students’ answers were exactly the same. After confronting them, the school administration gave out the suspensions, then took it one step further by posting a message on the school signboard that cheating was unacceptable.

One would think that the parents of these cheating kids would back the punishment, maybe even extend it at their homes by grounding them or something like that. Yet when interviewed by the L.A. Times (which was reporting on the parents’ protests of excessive punishment), several of these parents (anonymously) came to the defense of their kids and said it wasn’t that big of a deal and that everyone cheats, “my kid just happen to get caught.” They said the school overreacted because it was only a homework assignment, not an exam.

The reason these kids cheated is obvious, because they watch their parents do the same thing. For example, I stopped counting the times I’ve seen adults race through red lights. It’s not because they want to save a couple minutes (which is the rationale they use), it’s because they’re confident they won’t get caught.

I hope some of these kids learned a lesson at a point in their lives when the repercussions are less severe than they will be later in life. They’re certainly not learning at home.

Possibly a Good Politician

Why is it always the intelligent people who are socialists?
Alan Bennett, playwright

This is a politician I could truly get behind and support. I don’t know if I would like all his politics, but he does seem like the antidote for the government we currently have in office. The Associated Press reported this story:

The government that we have today in the White House, the House of Representatives with Tom Delay, the Senate with Bill Frist, is the most right-wing, extremist government, perhaps in the history of the United States," he tells labor activists at a May Day celebration in the century-old Labor Hall.

"Time after time they pass legislation that benefits the rich and the powerful, and they pass legislation that hurts the middle class, working people and low income people."

The crowd roars. They have come to hear this unlikely man who is likely to be the next U.S. senator from the Green Mountain State, and they love what they hear. This is Bernie Sanders at his best: one part revivalist preaching, two parts theater, all served up with a biting sarcasm.

It is vintage Bernie - literally. The words and the message have not changed in more than 30 years. Millions of times, he has decried - in a strong Brooklyn accent - what he sees as an outrageous, growing gap between the rich and the poor.

For half of those years, though, Sanders has been part of the Washington he loves to attack.

In his eighth term in the U.S. House, the independent socialist has carved out a career in Congress as a Congress-basher. Now he is setting his sights on the Senate, and everyone agrees he is the man to beat for the seat now held by the retiring Jim Jeffords.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

Have no pity.
Eugenio Montale (1896 - 1981), poet

Memorial Day Weekend. We plan to barbeque, watch tennis, read and relax. My favorite weekend is one where there are no plans to go or be anywhere. I look forward to the long weekends and hope that the neighbors all go away and peace and quiet rein. So far, so good. There was some idiot the other night lighting firecrackers and scaring the dog, but thankfully, it didn’t last long.

HBO Special. I am very much looking forward to the HBO special that started last night and wraps up tonight. Empire Falls with Paul Newman, Ed Harris, Helen Hunt and a cast of stellar stars. If it is remotely as good as Angels in America, I will be delighted. That was an excellent movie with Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, and Emma Thompson.

LSATs. Daughter is spending this holiday weekend study for her LSATs next Monday, which also happens to be her 21st birthday. Daughter once again impresses me with her study habits as she has been hitting the books for nearly eight hours a day.

Bomb Shell. The little notice that I mentioned last weekend was a mistake to first air in the blog. Since that was the first airing of that information, I have heard from friends and family regarding that tidbit, who complained about having to hear such info via the blog. There is only one thing I can say with certainty, neither of us have any idea what may or may not happen.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

No More Free Pretzels

Northwest Airlines Corp. is pulling its free pretzels from all domestic flights; now the only thing you get for free with your flight is soda. This will save the airline $2 million a year, which should just about cover the $458 million dollars they lost last quarter... in 229 years they will officially break even.

Don't fret about going hungry on their flights, though -- you can still buy a three-ounce bag of trail mix for $1.


Feeling Bad for David Geffen

So David Geffen had to make room for the unwashed masses on his beachfront property. Apparently neighbors across HIghway 1 felt bad that they didn't have any access to the sand, and have successfully gotten Geffen to cave in and open a pathway from the highway down to the surf.

The public has a right to the land between the waves and the mean high tide line -- not everything that's got sand on it. But there's now an enforced public easement in front of Geffen's estate that has these folks virtually in his lap, leaving him without the solitude he clearly needs so desperately.

I feel bad that Geffen has surrendered his pristine, untrammelled beachfront. He bought the house, he owns most of the land around it, and it's his right to lord his money over the have-nots. Can't they just hoof it to some more public place, instead of laying out their peanut-butter-and-sand-sandwich picnics in front of his pool? Instead of letting their infants romp naked in the sea spray while he has to look on from his living room?

One of the best things about America is making lots of money and then spending it to keep others away. Hughes did it, Hearst did it, and Geffen wanted to join that club. But now that the rabble can cavort openly on Geffen's front yard, what chance will I have to clear some beautiful property all for me and my family when I strike it rich? Slim to none, I guess.

My Way or the Highway

If we ignore this threat, we invite certain blackmail and place millions of our citizens in grave danger.
George W. Bush, worst U.S. president in history

This report from the Associated Press continues passing the Bush administrations message without holding the administration accountable for the billions wasted in Iraq on a weekly basis.

Speaking out for the first time in favor of controversial base closings, President Bush said Friday the nation is wasting billions of dollars on unnecessary military facilities and needs the money for the war on terrorism.

I content that the military base closings are to blackmail senators into voting the way the Bush gang wants them to vote.

Bush, who faces opposition from many states to shutting down bases, tried to be reassuring. He said the bases would be chosen fairly and the government would do all it could to help affected communities recover.

But he made clear that the process - however painful - could not be avoided. Oh, I hope people will remember how the Bush gang is selling them down the river.

Friday, May 27, 2005

On The Mark -- Lazy Profits, Men Will Die, and Doggie Daycare

“Rebateless” Profits – I’ve always been annoyed by these companies that offer rebates on consumer items such as cell phones, TIVO, computers, etc. Each time I buy a product, I ask the salesperson why they can’t just give me the discount right then and there. Why do I have to go through this process? It’s a rhetorical question, of course, because I suspected these companies made these offers because they know must people are too lazy or forgetful to send in the documentation (like me). It was proven today, when it was reported that TIVO had a better (financial) first quarter than anticipated. The reason the company gave: Most people who bought their TIVO system did not send in for the rebate, saving the company millions of dollars.

“Men Will Die” – I saw a clip of President Bush’s commencement speech at the U.S. Naval Academy this morning. He last gave a commencement speech at the Academy soon after 9/11. In today’s speech (paraphrasing) he said -- the Marines and Sailors who graduated in the class the last time he spoke went on to become hardened battle warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soon you will, too.

Wow, I wonder how many will be celebrating tonight? The only thing missing is that he didn’t say what Mel Gibson said to his troops in the movie “We Were Soldiers” before they left camp to fight in Vietnam – Men will die.

You Live Among Them – First, let me say (or remind) that I have two dogs and two cats. I consider them family when it comes to responsibility for taking care of them, but that’s where it stops. I don’t treat them like kids. On the front page of the Wall Street Journal yesterday there was an article about the challenges people face getting their animals into doggie daycare. The article reported on how animals have to go through “interviews” and tests before the proprietor decides whether or not to admit them (this is for day care, not boarding – yeah, there are some people who don’t want to leave their animals alone during the day, as if they were children). Anyway, people go through quite the trauma waiting to find out if their dog was accepted. One woman, who feared her dog may not get accepted, was quoted as saying, “She’s not gifted.” Please…

Is It Duck Soup Yet?

It is the duty of the President to propose and it is the privilege of the Congress to dispose.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945), U.S. President

I am enjoying the fact that President Bush is not getting everything rubber stamped as congress realizes that the majority, even those who voted Republican, are not extreme conservatives. As a result Bush is being ignored on his Social Security nonsense, voted against on his stem cell theology stance and he had his nuclear option in the senate fizzle.

The Democrats forced a delay in a confirmation vote for John R. Bolton, yet another setback for President Bush's thuggish choice as U.N. ambassador. The vote to advance Bolton's nomination to an immediate confirmation vote was 56-42, so it was not all Democrats since the Republicans were four short of the 60 votes that Bolton's Republican backers needed.

According to the Washington Post, Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist said, "John Bolton, the very first issue we turned to, we got what looks to me like a filibuster. It certainly sounds like a filibuster ... it quacks like a filibuster."

I think what he meant to say was, it smells like a lame duck and it looks like a lame duck. With any luck, Bush will be duck soup.

Pinkerton on Jonah

Jay Pinkerton has another great post in his series about the final dozen books of the Bible penned by the minor prophets (or as he likes to call them, “Guess What God’s Angry About Now?” Parts One through Twelve). Here's an excerpt:
The Tarshish sailors draw straws in order to figure out which one of them angered the Lord. I wouldn’t even know where to start with how idiotic that is, so let’s just skip to the part where it works anyway.
It's worth a quick look.

Integrity: You Have It or You Don’t

Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.
Samuel Johnson (1709–84), essayist

ABC's Nightline is once again going to honor the men and women who have died in the needless war in Iraq. Ted Koppel is going to read the names of all the fallen soldiers.

Last year the Sinclair Broadcasting Company refused to allow any of its ABC affiliate stations to air such a program. God forbid that the hard facts of reality get in the way of a George Bush re-election.

Nightline continues to show journalistic integrity, while Sinclair may not even care this time around, so their argument that Nightline was being political last year was a lie to cover up Sinclair’s lack of integrity. Why am I not surprised?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Toner Mishap Due to Cockroaches

Cockroaches are eating toner in the Municipal Court 1 in Skopje, Macedonia.

Judges said that this problem is the reason why they are not able to print the records of the court sessions; they are finding cockroaches in the printers, but the heat and the laser were killing them so there were no bigger defects. However, the cockroaches have eaten the toner on several occasions.

"This is big shame for the country. This court, as the biggest court in the country, should have the best equipment instead of fighting cockroaches," one of the judges reacted.

[Thanks, Boingboing!]

No Absolute Power for Either Side

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men...There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.
Lord Acton (1834 - 1902), historian

The Washington Post has an excellent article on the changing balance of power and how the Republicans have changed it in ways that may influence politics for years to come. The following are highlights from the article:

  • The common theme is to consolidate influence in a small circle of Republicans and to marginalize dissenting voices that would try to impede a conservative agenda.
  • House Republicans, for instance, discarded the seniority system and limited the independence and prerogatives of committee chairmen. The result is a chamber effectively run by a handful of GOP leaders. At the White House, Bush has tightened the reins on Cabinet members, centralizing the most important decisions among a tight group of West Wing loyalists. With the strong encouragement of Vice President Cheney, he has also moved to expand the amount of executive branch information that can be legally shielded from Congress, the courts and the public.
  • Some of the changes, such as a more powerful executive branch, less powerful rank-and-file members of Congress and more pro-Republican courts, are likely to outlast the current president and GOP majority, they say. The Republican bid to ban the filibustering of judges made it easier for Bush to appoint conservatives to the Supreme Court and holds open the threat of future attempts to erode the most powerful tool available to the minority party in Congress.
  • In 1995, the government created about 3.6 million secrets. In 2004, there more than 15.5 million, according to the government's Information Security Oversight Office. The White House attributes the rise in information the public cannot see to the security threats in a post-Sept. 11, 2001, world.
  • Washington traditionalists -- veteran Republicans among them -- warn that the new breed of GOP leaders is trampling time-honored procedures designed to ensure that multiple voices have influence on the most important matters in government.

I personally find it much too scary that one party has such a strangle hold on policy. Whether it is Democrats or Republicans, we must remember absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Spector Update

The Misanthrope mentioned Phil Spector the other day in passing, and mentioned his hair... but didn't include a photo. So here it is.

Stranger Danger

One of the difficulties my wife and I face raising children in the twenty-first century is balancing the instruction of a traditional sense of manners with a healthy awareness of the realities of our world. So here are, inasmuch as I can enumerate them, some of the rules my wife and I teach our three daughters about interacting with other humans (for information on how they relate to poodles, gibbons, and rabbits, stay tuned; I may cover that eventually).

1. Don't talk to strangers.

2. You may talk to people you don't know if Mommy and Daddy tell you it's OK first.

3. It's OK for you to talk to other children playing at the park.

4. The parents of your friends are not strangers, and you should respond politely to their greetings when we take you to a friend's house for a party, and if we leave you there then you can and should talk to those parents if you need anything. But not if they just approach you at school. Unless it's just to say "hi" -- then it's OK. But if they're especially weird or asking you to do anything that seems wrong, tell Mommy and Daddy immediately.

5. The cashier and bagboy at the grocery store are strangers, even if you recognize them from last time, and you should always ask Mommy or Daddy before engaging them in conversation. That said, you can acknowledge their greetings with "hello" if you see Mommy or Daddy already talking to them. And when they say, as they always do, that you are all so pretty, you should say "thank you."

6. But they are strangers again when you're not at the grocery store. Really.

7. The doctor is not a stranger, and when Mommy and Daddy take you to an appointment you can talk to her and do what she says, because Mommy and Daddy are right there making sure everything is OK.

8. Relatives are not strangers, but that doesn't give them the right to manhandle you -- you should always be polite to family, but you don't have to kiss and hug if you don't want to. Your body is your own, and you can always tell Mommy and Daddy if someone is making you uncomfortable.

9. Mommy and Daddy reserve the right to hug and kiss you whenever we want.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

On The Mark -- Hypocrisy Decade: Defining Family Values

I saw this quote

"That's unconscionable...I believe in family values"

recently by Jim Stellings, Seminole County (Florida) Republican Party Chairman and thought it perfectly defines everything about the Republican Party and how its representatives seem to think they're above everyone else regarding morals and ethics. It's easy to think that way when you keep re-defining what is right and wrong to suit your needs.

Stellings filed a defamation suit against a political rival who Stellings says falsely accused him of having been married six times. He made this comment while testifying in the suit (the fact that it even went to court is certainly worthy of a good rant).

He actually has only been married five times...

There's no man in town half as manly.

Gaston gets a bad rap. For some reason, Disney considers him one of their line-up of villains, but he's really just misunderstood -- all he wants is to woo and win the lovely Belle, and help her senile father get the help he needs.

That said, Belle's preference for the Beast over Gaston is an interesting one, for they share many of the same characteristics -- and those qualities that Gaston is proud of, the Beast has in spades. Here's an excerpt from Gaston's song:
Girls: For there's no one as burly and brawny.
Gaston: As you see, I've got biceps to spare.
LeFou: Not a bit of him's scraggly or scrawny.
Gaston: And ev'ry last inch of me's covered with hair!
So let's see: burly, brawny, muscly, and hairy -- all of those qualities that we laugh at Gaston for, the Beast has in much greater proportion.

Is the lesson for Gaston that he is not rough or brutish enough? Not hairy enough? He means well, but doesn't always do the right thing -- he needs some tender, loving guidance. That's exactly the same story as the Beast -- except the Beast holds Belle against her will in his castle.

So what's up with Belle? Does she secretly like Gaston, but seeks out someone even more potentially dangerous and brutish? And does she miss the Beast when he becomes a prince again?

Clearly, Belle has some sort of a "bad boy" complex, and Gaston just wasn't bad enough for her.

Making Michael Jackson Normal

As soon as he ceased to be mad he became merely stupid. There are maladies we must not seek to cure because they alone protect us from others that are more serious.
Marcel Proust (1871 - 1922), novelist

A friend, who I shall refer to as Scribe, henceforth, called me yesterday morning telling me that only one person could make Michael Jackson look normal, pedophile issues aside. That would be the man who is known for creating the wall of sound – Phil Spector.

Spector made his name by raising pop music’s sound through overdubbing scores of musicians to create a massive roar. He produced the Beatles “Let it Be” album, the Righteous Bros, and Ike and Tina Turner, among many others. Today he is mentally gone, if here were ever here, so it seems to me. Unfortunately, there is not a picture of Spector on the Los Angeles Times link, but here is how the reporter described him:

…he strode through the criminal court building in downtown Los Angeles in high-heeled platform boots, his hair teased into a puffy blond Afro, with curls extending several inches beyond his head.

I have always heard stories about Spector carry a gun into the recording studio back in the days when rocks stars were interested in his producer talent. The other day, the judge in Spector’s trial ruled that four women could testify that Spector had threatened them with guns more than 15 years ago. Spector’s modus operandi was to threaten the women if they spurned his advances. Looking as he does in the newspaper, the only woman who would be interested in him today would be Ms. Bozo, but she probably would have more dignity than to be seen with such a nut job.

I am not sure that this blog is anonymous enough to critize Spector's attorney considering that his attorney is Bruce Cutler, who used to represent Mafia Kingpin John Gotti. Cutler endeared himself by calling the women sycophants and parasites. Clearly, they were not if they refused Spector and his gun.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

On The Mark -- Keep Fighting, Al

Say what you will about Al Sharpton, but I have to give him credit for seeing through the smoke regarding Mexico’s President Vicente Fox. If you’ve been following the story (and/or my posts), you’ve seen that Fox clearly made a very disparaging remark about African-Americans a couple weeks ago. He refused to apologize for the remark.

Then Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton jumped into the picture and demanded an apology. Fox finally offered a weak response, but it wasn’t an apology, rather a “regret” he had said anything that might have hurt some feelings. Although the media, such as Associated Press, published headlines stating Fox had apologized, he hadn’t, which I pointed out previously.

Yet, Jackson was satisfied and went on his merry way, probably knowing he had gained good PR points because of the inaccurate reporting by the media (of an apology that wasn’t) and calculating the story didn't have any legs.

Sharpton, on the other hand, said I’m afraid that’s not good enough, and demanded another meeting with Fox, which just occurred. Fox stood his ground saying his comments were misinterpreted (which they weren’t; he meant exactly how those offended read his comments). Reuters quoted Sharpton as saying:

"There was no misinterpretation. It is very clear what he said and it is very clear that we understood what he said," Sharpton told reporters.

"If I step on your toe, I should apologize. I should not say that I regret that you think your foot hurts," Sharpton said.

I never thought I would say this, but I actually agree with Sharpton on something.

Super Mario's Pick-up Lines

"Are you a magic feather? Because my heart just grew a tail, and flew away."

"If you were a warp tube, I'd be in you all day."

"Are you a magic mushroom? Because you are making me grow."

"Are you a magic flower? Because you are burning me up."

"I'd rather ride you than Yoshi any day."

"If Princess Toad looked liked you, I would have killed Bowser years ago."

"If I had the choice, I would gladly spend my 100 coins on you instead of on an extra life."

"You don't have to turn on a game to play with me."

"They don't call me Super for nothing."

By Christopher Doody, for McSweeney's

Monday, May 23, 2005

On The Mark -- "Outright Lies"

A few weeks ago I wrote about Pat Tillman, the professional football player who gave up a multi-million dollar contract to fight the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. He was killed in Afghanistan, and the Bush Administration milked his death for all it was worth to build patriotism in America. This was all happening, by the way, while the Abu Ghraib torture scandal was unfolding. It was also happening while all along the Pentagon and White House knew that Tillman had died by friendly fire, but that was news the government didn’t want to get out because it would ruin the PR plan, including a nationally televised burial and other actions, such as Bush giving a special tribute via tape to Arizona Cardinal football fans prior to the presidential election.

I wrote about how the government knew he had died by friendly fire weeks in advance of telling his family and the public, and when this information was finally released it was buried deep in newspapers, if reported at all.

Fortunately, Tillman’s parents have spoken out. And it isn’t pretty. Here are some excerpts about this disgusting news (as reported by Josh White of the Washington Post):

Former NFL player Pat Tillman's family is lashing out against the Army, saying that the military's investigations into Tillman's friendly-fire death in Afghanistan last year were a sham and that Army efforts to cover up the truth have made it harder for them to deal with their loss.

More than a year after their son was shot several times by his fellow Army Rangers on a craggy hillside near the Pakistani border, Tillman's mother and father said in interviews that they believe the military and the government created a heroic tale about how their son died to foster a patriotic response across the country. They say the Army's "lies" about what happened have made them suspicious, and that they are certain they will never get the full story.

"Pat had high ideals about the country; that's why he did what he did," Mary Tillman said in her first lengthy interview since her son's death. "The military let him down. The administration let him down. It was a sign of disrespect. The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting."

Immediately, the Army kept the soldiers on the ground quiet and told Tillman's family and the public that he was killed by enemy fire while storming a hill, barking orders to his fellow Rangers. After a public memorial service, at which Tillman received the Silver Star, the Army told Tillman's family what had really happened, that he had been killed by his own men.

Patrick Tillman Sr., a San Jose lawyer, said he is furious about what he found in the volumes of witness statements and investigative documents the Army has given to the family. He decried what he calls a "botched homicide investigation" and blames high-ranking Army officers for presenting "outright lies" to the family and to the public.

"After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this," Patrick Tillman said. "They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy."

That their son was famous opened up the situation to problems, the Tillmans say, in part because of the devastating public relations loss his death represented for the military. Mary Tillman says the government used her son for weeks after his death, perpetuating an untrue story to capitalize on his altruism -- just as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was erupting publicly.

She said she was particularly offended when President Bush offered a taped memorial message to Tillman at a Cardinals football game shortly before the presidential election last fall. She again felt as though her son was being used, something he never would have wanted.

World’s First Famous Streaker has Papers Uncovered

The simplest schoolboy is now familiar with facts for which Archimedes would have sacrificed his life.
Ernest Renan (1823 - 1892), philosopher, philologist and historian

Here is a little tidbit to kick off the week Drudge Report style: The world’s first well-known streaker, Archimedes, who according to the Los Angeles Times, best known for running naked dripping wet from his bathtub through the streets of Syracuse shouting “Eureka!” after discovering the principle of water displacement in his bathtub; I am guessing it was a Saturday night.

On the more serious side, according to the article, scientists are using the powerful X-ray light emitted by the synchrotron at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center to read hidden text on a 1,000-year-old copy of the Archimedes palimpsest, a mathematical and engineering text written by the Italian philosopher in the 3rd century BC.

In case you had forgotten, Microsoft’s Encarta Reference Library provides the following:

In mechanics, Archimedes defined the principle of the lever and is credited with inventing the compound pulley. During his stay in Egypt he invented the hydraulic screw for raising water from a lower to a higher level. He is best known for discovering the law of hydrostatics, often called Archimedes' principle, which states that a body immersed in fluid loses weight equal to the weight of the amount of fluid it displaces. This discovery is said to have been made as Archimedes stepped into his bath and perceived the displaced water overflowing.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

Marriage is like a cage; one sees the birds outside desperate to get in, and those inside equally desperate to get out.
Michel de Montaigne (1533 - 1592), essayist

Jazz. I made a last-minute decision to go see Frank Morgan at Catalina’s Saturday night. I am anticipating a good show. The members of the band backing Morgan are trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis, drummer Jason Marsalis, bassist John Clayton and pianist Gerald Clayton.

Finished. It only took two months of Sundays to finish “Saturday” by Ian McEwan. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I am just a slow reader and it’s difficult to make much progress reading one or two pages before falling asleep. I found the book to be very poignant and I loved the ending pages.

Currently Reading. On my nightstand now is “The Light of the Day” by Graham Swift. This is how bad my memory is getting. I apparently had started reading it, but when wife makes the bed, she kicks the book under the bed, not so hard if she sees it, she kicks it real hard if she didn’t see it and the corner of the book jabs into the arch of her foot. Anyway, while cleaning under the bed, I found the book and when I finished “Saturday” I started reading it again. A few pages into I realized that I have read this before, but I am certain that I didn’t finish it. I must have been attempting to read two books and got into the other and completely forgot about Swift’s book.

New CDs. Dave Matthews Band’s new CD “Stand Up” is rather good. It took me a few listenings to really get into it. They have a jazzy rock feel to their songs. Also, purchased Lucinda Williams new live CD “Live at the Fillmore.” She very much reminds me of a female Neil Young.

The End. The wife and I have decided to call it quits. It was not an easy decision and it was made after much deliberation. We have known for years that we didn’t have much in common, she is honest and sincere and I am a decent chap (with a personality somewhere between Becker and Larry David). While those qualities are important, alone they are not enough. Like all the Hollywood break ups where the statement issued says they will remain friends, which everyone knows is a bunch of crap. We will remain friends. There is no reason not to.

Harper Lee on Success

In the Saturday edition of the Los Angeles Times, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird was quoted on the topic of the success of her first and only novel:
I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird... I was hoping for a quick death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I'd expected.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

A Smart Search Engine That Isn't So Smart


Ran over to Kaiser to get my wife's script filled (she has some sort of bug and is on antibiotics and other stuff), and I stopped in the bathroom next to the labs.

On the wall is posted a flyer with specific, detailed instructions on how to properly wash your penis before giving a urine sample for inspection. Included in those directions is the phrase "urethral meatus." Here's my problem with it: if you need instructions on how to wash your penis, will you comprehend the phrase "urethral meatus"?

My guess: they wind up with more than a few tainted samples at this particular Kaiser.

Friday, May 20, 2005

On The Mark -- Hypocrisy Decade: Saddam's Underwear

The White House and the Pentagon have aggressively accused Newsweek of causing riots and deaths in Muslim nations, as well as damaging the reputation of the U.S. overseas, because of the column brief (since retracted) accusing the U.S. military of desecrating the Koran (which the Red Cross and other organizations will probably soon prove to be true since they've filed complaints in the past).

When photos of Saddam Hussein in his underwear while in captivity appear in a British tabloid today-- from what I understand a violation of Geneva Convention rules -- President Bush is asked if he thinks this will incite riots and further damage the U.S.'s reputation.

He responds that he doesn't think a photo would make Muslims kill and riot, that it's an ideology that makes them do it. "I don't think a photo inspires murders," Bush replied. He said Iraq's insurgents are "inspired by an ideology that is so barbaric and backwards that it's hard for many in the Western world to comprehend how they think."

Huh? Can this hypocrisy get any more blatant?

Sooo Tired

Life is one long process of getting tired.
Samuel Butler (1835 - 1902), writer, painter, and musician

This is one of those days when I don’t have enough energy to get outraged.

Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Senate Leader Bill Frist are arguing like school kids trying to get a fickle public opinion behind them and today I am going to listen to music do some household chores and read.

I am doing my best to ignore President Bush, who only cares about the wealthy. I am not going to write about how the banks are killing their customers with onerous interest rates and penalties.

I am taking a day to forget, not permanently, as they (politicians and businesses) want you to. They count on consumer stupidity; so far, we have not let them down.

Finally Friday

He who laughs on Friday will cry on Sunday.
Jean Baptiste Racine (1639 - 1699), playwright

We have Manic Monday, which B2 wrote about here. But, I’ve listed a few items about Friday. In history, there have been a number of events known as Black Friday (what do you expect from The Misanthrope something happy?):

  • Black Friday (1869) - a stock market crash in the United States
  • Black Friday (1919) - a riot in Glasgow stemming from industrial unrest
  • Black Friday (1939) - a day of devastating fires in Australia
  • Black Friday (1978) - a massacre of protesters in Iran
  • Black Friday (shopping) - the day after American Thanksgiving, one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
  • Bloody Friday (July 21, 1972) – a day when more than 22 bombs planted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in and around Belfast, Ireland resulted in nine deaths and 130 seriously injured.
  • Casual Friday – a day of dressing in jeans.
  • Freaky Friday -- the name of three different movies with similar plots made by the Walt Disney Company where a teenage girl and her mother switch bodies and learn to understand each other better.
  • TGIF – this is occurs on most Fridays unless one has to work on Saturday or has the misfortune to encounter a Black Friday.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

On The Mark -- Keeping It Flowing

I was at an event last weekend with a group of people and one of the activities was a 4-mile roundtrip hike. It was a hot day, with no shade, and the hike was steep, from sea level to a mountaintop.

Two people passed out from dehydration and had to be taken by ambulance to a hospital. The camp was remotely located with a one-lane road leading up to the top. When emergency crews were called, several different responders arrived to assist the fallen, probably because nobody really knew how to get to our location and they most likely just wanted to make sure someone got there.

When the fire team arrived, I asked them what they thought about the new study that said drinking too much water is dangerous (as I previously posted about). “Hogwash,” they said. “You can never drink too much water.”

When the ambulance team arrived, I asked them the same question. “Don’t believe any of it,” they all agreed, wondering what was really behind the study.

When the doctor arrived, I again asked him the same question. “Most idiotic research finding I’ve ever heard of,” he said without hesitation.

So there you have it from three independent medical provider groups. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to keep the water flowing. I know I drank a lot of it during the hike and I felt great at the end of it.

What They're Saying About The Jews

"The Jews are the cancer spreading all over the world... the Jews are a virus like AIDS hitting humankind... Jews are responsible for all wars and conflicts.... Do not ask what Germany did to the Jews but what the Jews did to Germany. True, the Germans killed and burned Jews but the Jews exaggerate the numbers to gain propaganda advantages and sympathy…"
Sheikh Ibrahim Mudairis, May 13, 2005, Gaza

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to dismiss the head of Palestinian Television over the airing of a live sermon from a Gaza Mosque delivered by Sheikh Ibrahim Mudairis which was filled with antisemitic attacks and denials of the Holocaust.

During the sermon, in the presence of uniformed Palestinian Authority police, the Sheik also asserted that God has predetermined that the Jewish problem will be solved with the extermination of the Jews, and that God has also predetermined that Christian-Islam interactions will end with today's Christian countries under Islam.


Search Words

Truthful words are not beautiful; beautiful words are not truthful. Good words are not persuasive; persuasive words are not good.
Lao-Tzu (6th century BC), Chinese philosopher

The following are key search words used to find Toner Mishap. I have not added one word, I just arranged them into a freestyle poetry format. Hope you enjoy.

White hair toner money hands keyboards germs bacteria shaking
Supermarket camel fuckers kissing butt
Magic bullet express quarterback fucks
Infinite being
Chewbacca, what a wookie supernova
Oh no not you again
Chewie mp3
Oh no not you again school
Supernova chewbacca
Rolling Stones oh no not you again
Chewbacca mp3
Deep in throat ogre women
Was chewbacca a woman

Nar Wars

Episode III premieres in the States this weekend, and so in honor of that... (OK, I was going to post this anyway)... here's what some Star Wars characters would be named if they were Jewish.

Han Schlomo (are those tzitzit we see up there?!?)
Princess Leah
Lou Skywalker
Obi-Wan Bar-Kokhba
Bubbe Fett

Deploy Police Where it Matters Most

A state trooper pulled up alongside me at a traffic light and began looking me over with that sort of casual disdain you often get when you give a dangerously stupid person a gun and a squad car.
Bill Bryson, writer

I have noticed a troubling trend among police officers lately. Every time I see an officer in a patrol car, he or she is yakking on their cell phone. This makes me nervous because they are supposed to be observing things around them. Talking on the phone is a major distraction and police officers should not be allowed to make personal calls unless they are on a break.

One officer who does not use his cell phone is the angry bonehead that sits on his motorcycle in front of our downtown office building lying in wait for notorious jaywalkers. What if the jaywalker kept on walking after the officer signaled for the errant pedestrian to come forth? Would a chase ensue similar to an O. J. Simpson freeway escapade? If this traffic light avoiding scofflaw had a backpack would the police be afraid it was filled with explosives and fire 120 rounds to eventually stop this person, all because the traffic lanes were clear and rather than wait senselessly and needlessly for the light to change simply strolled across the street.

I am too lazy to look up the statistics on homicides, rapes, gang violence and other crime in Los Angeles, but we all know the figures (even thought they are reportedly down) are too high. Why would limited resources be spent writing jaywalking tickets, other than for revenue? If it is money they are after, there are more than enough speeders to go after. And, no, I have not received such a citation, but a colleague did last year and it cost him $120.00.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

On The Mark -- A Father's Day Gift Idea -- Two Tubes and a Little DNA

We all know how difficult it is to buy a Father’s Day gift for the person who has everything. Finding something different and unique is nearly impossible, unless you want to spend thousands of dollars.

In Germany, one company has come up with a unique gift, and you can get it for pennies. Biotix, a laboratory that specializes in DNA testing, is offering to conduct paternity tests (normally $625) for any father in Germany if he suspects his wife was messing around and he wants to know if the child is really his. The father takes a swab of saliva from his mouth and swab from his kid, puts them in separate tubes, and mails them off to the lab. Within days, the lab sends back the results with 99.9% accuracy. According to the Chicago Tribune, last year 15,000-20,000 paternity tests were conducted in Germany and 1 in 5 came back indicating that someone else had fathered the child.

What a Father’s Day present that would be, huh? Those are pretty amazing statistics.

What is a publicity stunt has now turned into a public fight in Germany with proposed legislation that fathers cannot have these tests done in secrecy – that the mother/wife must provide consent. I think this proposed legislation is hogwash, but at the same time it would probably save the guy a lot of money. Imagine the scenario if the law is passed. The legislators believe that secret paternity tests would tear apart the family. So when the husband says, “Honey, I want to get a DNA test done on little Isabel,” how can anything good come from it.

That phrase alone would tear apart the family, whether the wife is innocent or not. If she says “OK” then he’ll probably not feel a need to spend the money, but his wife will then probably start looking because she’ll be pissed. If she puts up a fight, even if she’s innocent, she’ll look guilty. Whereas, if the father has the test done in secret, and it comes back OK, then nobody knows and nobody gets hurt. Right?

Incredible but Disgusting

The French sure know how to make compelling safe sex ads. That said, do not click this link unless you are very brave. And, depending on your workplace, this may be NSFW. [Thanks, Sam!]

Republicans Ready to Nuke Senate Rules --
Duck and Cover

Unless Americans [Republicans] come to realize that they are not stronger in the world [senate] because they have the bomb but weaker because of their vulnerability to atomic attack, they are not likely to conduct their policy at Lake Success or in their relations with Russia [Democrats] in a spirit that furthers the arrival at an understanding..
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955), physicist, from an open letter*

In the above quote, substitute a few word and you have a quote that is just as poignant today. Pressing their advantage the Republicans are about to exercise the much threaten and talked about nuclear option, which means the Republicans in the senate will vote out the long held filibuster option in order to get a majority vote on the conservative judges President George Bush wants to appoint.

This has been simmering for weeks and is scheduled to start today once Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn) puts forth two judicial nominees, Janice Rogers Brown of California and Priscilla Owen of Texas. Democrats have vowed to filibuster both to prevent their confirmation.

The Republican action has been dubbed the nuclear action because of its potential to disrupt the Senate and shatter what little comity remains between Republicans and Democrats, according to the Washington Post.

The Republicans can take such brazen action because they hold a majority of the seats currently. This is all about appointing conservative judges that Bush will not compromise on or allow debate about. Never mind that more judges were blocked during President Bill Clinton’s terms in office because the Republicans used their committee powers to stop the judges from getting a fair hearing.

What I find interesting is Majority Leader Bill Frist’s (R-Tenn.) double speak:

"Republicans believe in the regular order of fair up and down votes and letting the Senate decide yes or no on judicial confirmations free from procedural gimmicks like the filibuster," he said, "and I hope Senator Reid and others know our door is always open to reasonable proposals for fair up or down votes for judicial nominees."

When did the filibuster become a procedural gimmick? Frist’s open door policy means – when you are ready to agree to our terms we’ll talk.

In one way, I am looking forward to the Republicans pulling this stunt because the public opinion thus far is against the Republicans using this option. I fully expect the Democrats to gain a few more seats in the next election and eventually the presidency in 2008 and then watch the Republicans squeal like stuck pigs when they are shut out.

*(Following its establishment in 1945 the United Nations General Assembly met temporarily in Lake Success, New York State, pending the setting up of a permanent headquarters.)

Must-Flee TV

NBC is hoping to pick itself up by its bootstraps with some fun new comedy this fall -- Martha Stewart picking a protege [tentatively scheduled to be played by Jerry Seinfeld] and singer Amy Grant making wishes come true [like, "I wish Friends were back on"].

Good news for my wife, though, who crushes on Jason Lee (Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Mumford, Stealing Harvard) -- NBC is premiering "My Name is Earl," featuring Lee as a downtrodden lottery winner.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

On The Mark -- A President's Regret

So Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton jump into the act regarding the comment Mexico’s President Fox said last Friday, “There’s no doubt that the Mexican men and women – full of dignity, willpower and a capacity for work – are doing the work that not even blacks want to do in the United States.” So, according to Associated Press, President Fox last night says to Jackson and Sharpton on the phone that he “regrets” he made the comment, after a full day of refusing to retract what he said. Here’s the official statement:

"The president regretted any hurt feelings his statements may have caused," the Foreign Relations Department said in a press statement. "He expressed the great respect he and his administration has for the African-American community in the United States."

OK, there’s all kinds of nuances going on here. First, notice that Fox didn’t apologize for what he said. It’s a regret that he got people agitated about what he said. Clearly, he still stands behind his statement. He realizes that most people will read it as an apology because they don’t really pay attention (including the media -- a regret does not automatically translate into an apology: AP's headline is "Mexico's Fox Apologizes for Black Comment." NO, he didn't apologize). But his constituency will know what he is saying, and that's all that matters to him. I would say what he regrets are the phone calls and pressure he was receiving from Jackson and Sharpton. I’m sure he realized it wasn’t going to go away until he said “something.”

Now some may call Jackson and Sharpton publicity hounds, and they may be right, but at the same time someone had to take Fox to task. The fact that Jackson and Sharpton accepted this lame response probably proves they were out only for the publicity (I’m surprised Maxine Water didn’t jump into this).

Some think Fox insulted the United States. Some believe that Bush should have called on Fox to apologize. I disagree on both counts. Fox insulted an entire race, and it had nothing to do with the United States. But what he said throws more fuel on the long burning fire between Latinos and African-Americans in the States.

Stick Your Wand Where the Sun Don’t Shine Mr. President

What's the need of working if it doesn't get you anywhere? What's the use of boring around in the same hole like a worm? Making the hole bigger to stay in?
Marita Bonner (1899 - 1971), short-story writer and essayist.

There are many reasons why I intensely dislike President George Bush. However, number one is his arrogance and condescending attitude toward the working class.

"Americans are concerned about high prices at the pump and they're really concerned as they start making their travel plans, and I understand that," the president said. "I wish I could just wave a magic wand and lower the price at the pump. I'd do that. But that's not how it works."

His latest comment about gas prices makes me wish I had a magic wand that would make him have to work for a living.

He has done nothing to help us unless it helps the rich more. I would thoroughly enjoy watching him try to get by on the salary of the average worker, pay for high prices for minimal health care, or see his Social Security reduced and delayed, or have his child sent to an unnecessary war. Then he would see had it really works

Monday, May 16, 2005

On The Mark -- "Doing the Work that Not Even Blacks Want to Do"

Gang warfare in Los Angeles is about as expected each day as the rise and fall of the sun. Lately, it’s become intense among Latinos and African-American kids in middle schools and high schools. There were some near riots at some schools and last week many students stayed home from a Santa Monica high school one day because the rumors were rampant that the “Blacks and Latinos were going to settle the score” that day.

A few weeks ago a Latino gang raided a party near my home, a usually very quiet neighborhood, and guns were blasting as they tried to hunt down an African-American kid on their hit list. A car with its windows shot out sat in the middle of the street.

It’s maddening, really. Not because it came near to me one evening. It’s maddening because there doesn’t seem to be an answer, and kids at younger ages are getting swept up into it.

I know it’s more than this, but a big part of the problem starts in the home and among government leaders and role models. And that brings me to the point of this post. On Friday Mexico’s President Vicente Fox described the Mexican work ethic to that of African-Americans while speaking at the Texas-Mexico Frozen Food Council meeting. Here’s what he said:

“There’s no doubt that the Mexican men and women – full of dignity, willpower and a capacity for work – are doing the work that not even blacks want to do in the United States.”

Unbelievable, don’t you think?


Driving in to work the other day, I found myself stopped at a red light, looking at the drivers in the adjacent cars. On my right was a man in a business suit, eating out of a yogurt container with a small plastic spoon.

I was raised in L.A., and have been in Southern California most of my life, so I've seen a lot of driver's seat shenanigans: eating, shaving, reading the newspaper, and so on, but something about this guy just seemed really sad.

How long does it take to eat a little yogurt anyway? Seven minutes? Did he really not have seven minutes to sit at home and eat his yogurt comfortably? You miss one light in this city and you're seven minutes behind schedule anyway.

We have become a culture that doesn't not have the time to do things; we choose to conflate every activity into one timeframe just because we can. Why eat yogurt and then drive, when you can do both at the same time? That's more productive, right? It's pretty sad that we are moving into a time when work and non-work meld into one -- we have the ability to keep in touch at any time, anywhere, and so we're never out of touch. If you check your voicemail every hour, you're not really on vacation, are you?

The Koran Not Destroyed, But Iraq Attacked

If we live all our lives under lies, it becomes difficult to see anything if it does not have anything to do with these lies.
Imamu Amiri Baraka, author, editor

Here is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. The Pentagon is angry about Newsweek relying on a confidential source, according to the Washington Post. The repercussions from the news weekly’s actions resulted in riots in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as 15 killed.

Now, correct me if I have this wrong, but didn’t the Pentagon and the White House rely on a completely unreliable source called Curveball to help get the United States involved with invading Iraq under false pretenses?

Also, if the prisoners were not treated inappropriately in Iraq would this little tidbit about allegations of willful Koran desecration have even been reported?

Newsweek apologized yesterday for its inaccurate report on the treatment of detainees that triggered several days of rioting in Afghanistan and other countries in which at least 15 people died.

Neither the president nor the Pentagon has apologized for the more than 1,600 soldiers killed and the thousands wounded.

"That's not what your mother said last night, Trebek."

I missed Saturday night's SNL, hosted by Will Ferrell, as I was busy working on a project that I brought home from the office. The Misanthrope was in the same boat, but I don't believe he cares much about missing the latest installment of Celebrity Jeopardy.

My wife is the one who let me know what I'd missed -- unable to sleep alone, she stayed up while I worked to later regale me with tales of Ferrell, letting me know just what I'd missed while I was slaving away downstairs (apparently Sean Connery was at his dirtiest and, therefore, his best).

Anyone got a link for an MPEG or Quicktime file? I really want to see it (and to store it with every other episode, which I keep on my laptop -- I'm willing to trade!).

Sunday, May 15, 2005


I just keep telling myself that it isn't very important.

All the sent files, the emails, the records... there's nothing there that I can't do without, or recreate, or retrieve from others; it's not a big deal.

And then I beign to realize that I don't even know how bad it is, and I won't until I need something and realize that's one of the things that's gone.

But what are we talking about here, a few nice quotes from satisfied clients? There'll be more. A few emails from my wife that I was treasuring? She'll write me more mash notes in the years to come. Records of my various electronic adventures and foibles? If I don't need it for taxes, it's not a big deal -- and I'll always have my memories, right? Wetware is still superior.

And I have my files, at least. None of my freelance work is trashed -- just the instructions from clients on my live projects. And I have all my photos and movies, family stuff that truly can't be replaced. So it's not all bleakness tonight.

Then why do I feel like finding out if drinking really will make me feel better?

The Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

Jazz is an intensified feeling of nonchalance.
Françoise Sagan, French novelist

Late Night Jazz. After a grueling week that still has not ended, I took a break Friday night with On the Mark to catch the late show of the Tierney Sutton Quartet at Catalina’s Bar and Grill. The music was enjoyable and relaxing, just what the doctor ordered. The show started 10:30ish and ended just before midnight.

The quartet consists of Tierney Sutton, Christian Jacob on piano, Trey Henry on bass, and Ray Brinker on drums. Classic jazz standards personalized by an innovative group made such songs as “Old Devil Moon,” “Someday my Prince Will Come,” “Willow Weep for Me,” “Route 66,” and many others. It was a pleasant pause during a hectic month of seemingly non-stop work.

After the show I yielded to temptation and purchased one of her CDs. It was overpriced at the club, but I guess the premium is the charge for instant gratification. I also justified the cost by having her sign the CD. I probably would have passed on the signing, but I was playing a Ray Brown CD the other day and was pleasantly surprised to see that he had autographed it. He passed away couple of years ago, but he was one of the top bass players in the business. I think he was married to Ella Fitzgerald at one time, too.

The Tierney Sutton Quartet seems to be touring frequently; check them out if you get a chance.

I Don’t Want to Grow Up. Daughter called Friday late afternoon to tell me she did not want to grow up. “Daddy, I don’t want to grow up.” I had nothing encouraging to tell her. I doubt many of us did or wanted to for very long. Tom Waits has an excellent song on the subject of growing up. Here is a sampling of the lyrics to the song “I Don’t Want to Grow Up”:

When I see the 5 o'clock news
I don't wanna grow up
Comb their hair and shine their shoes
I don't wanna grow up

Stay around in my old hometown
I don't wanna put no money down
I don't wanna get a big old loan
Work them fingers to the bone
I don't wanna float in a broom
Fall in love, get married then boom
How the hell did it get here so soon

A Few Things I’ve Done, I Won’t Do Again. My twist on the meme going around:

Ride in an old military helicopter
Float in a hot air balloon
Soar in a glider
Go to Disneyland on Christmas Eve (or ever again)
See Brandford Marsalis at a jazz club
Get married
Pass a car on a hill

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Ten Things I've Never Done

PoliBlog posted a meme Friday called "Ten Things I've Never Done"; here's my take on it (feel free to add your own list in the comments)...

I've never:
1. been surfing.

2. had a broken bone.

3. taken Communion.

4. seen the movie "Titanic."

5. started a joke which started the whole world crying,

6. eaten kangaroo jerky.

7. gone hunting.

8. passed out drunk.

9. watched "Oprah."

10. cared much for Bruce Springsteen.

Friday, May 13, 2005

On The Mark -- Street Corner Powder Kegs

bitchpd said it best as a comment in The Misanthrope’s post on retiring retirement:

“I truly believe that the end result of this, if the Republicans stay in power, will be to make the American economy look a lot like a lot of South American economies--very small elite, and everyone else lives in slums.”

I’ve seen this when visiting South American countries. I’ve seen it in places like Russia. I reported recently about how an acquaintance who once lived in Iran saw this on the streets of Tehran recently. But even more telling is that many of the unemployed are youth – teenagers and young adults who should be actively employed and starting to make their way in the world. Yet, more and more, we’re seeing them standing on street corners, smoking and trying to figure out how to get rid of their energy – and anger – since jobs are not to be found.

I bring this up because the trend is happening here in the United States. While the Bush administration hyped that the latest unemployment report for April showed that 274,000 jobs had been created, it didn’t mention a very telling statistic that other economic groups are pointing out – that the employment rate for teenagers in the first 11 months of 2004 (36.3 percent) is the lowest it has ever been since 1948 (when it started being monitored). The administration also didn’t point out that the 20-24 age group’s employment rate was only 67.9 percent, down nearly 5 percent since 2000.

As reported by Bob Herbert in the New York Times, Andrew Sum, the director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University said, “Younger workers have just been crushed.” He added, “The economy is growing and real output is up, but the distribution of income, in terms of how much is going to workers, well, the answer is very little has gone to the typical worker.”

Herbert says, “…wealth and power in the United States has (sic?) become ever more dangerously concentrated, leaving an entire generation of essentially powerless workers largely at the mercy of employers.” He ends his column with a great quote from Louis Brandeis:

“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. But we can’t have both.”

Cities and villages throughout the world are powder kegs of unemployed youths looking to release their energy and anger. One may think that it can’t happen here, that the U.S. is too big and it all evens out.

I’ve seen several sizable businesses operate with the same blindfolds on. They’re out of business now.

Got Your News On?

Television news, assaulted though it may be today, deserves our respect. It is a time-honored tradition, evolved under the watchful eyes of some of journalism's most brightly shining lights. It's always been an institution which I viewed with a certain amount of awe, and which I considered as separate from the rest of the fare on that same medium.


The latest promos for UPN's nightly newscast have just pushed me over the edge. Print, web and radio spots all pitch the benefits of watching this particular news program. Yes, television news has taken a beating lately, but to stoop so low as to offer (1) prizes for watching, (2) a "code word of the day" to qualify for those prizes, and (3) the slogan "get your news on"? Frankly, I am greatly rankled.

Can we please see a little more dignity from TV news programs? Maybe if we see it, we'll respond with renewed trust and faith that those talking heads on our screens still know what they're doing.

Nothing to Lose

Quite often…these little guys, who might be making atomic weapons or who might be guilty of some human rights violation...are looking for someone to listen to their problems and help them communicate.
Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States

The Bush administration’s rush to war in Iraq and the subsequent revelation that Colin Powell’s meeting before the United Nations was all an act with doctored or selectively picked evidence will have and is having lingering and possibly dire consequences, now and for years to come.

No one believes the United States when it comes to intelligence reports because it lost its credibility. According to the New York Times, a senior Chinese diplomat has accused the Bush team of again spouting false information, saying that there is no solid evidence that North Korea was preparing to test a nuclear weapon, and the administration is really trying to undermine negotiations with North Korea.

It seems to me the Chinese diplomat has a valid point. President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the rest of the administration have resorted to what they do best – name calling. If you are trying to negotiate, whether it’s the sale of your used car or the elimination of nuclear weapons, you are well advised not to insult the party on the other side of the table. And, if you are going to accuse someone of cheating or being underhanded, you had better have verifiable proof, especially if you were the one caught lying last time.

If you refer to your opponent as a tyrant and the leader of an evil empire, it is likely you are not going to achieve your goals. There is a basic win-win strategy that the Bush team refuses to accept; with them it’s we win and you lose (watch for the nuclear option in the Senate next week).

What the Bushies forget is that it’s hard to make North Korea a loser when they have nothing to lose.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Show Me Some Respect

The state motto of Missouri is salus populi suprema lex esto -- "the welfare of the people shall be the supreme law." With that in mind, let's look at Missouri's recent changes to welfare law, shall we?

The state's new budget calls for new, lower income threshholds that will result in booting 90,000 people off of Medicaid. I'm not one to give blanket support to such programs, but I am appalled that Governor Matt Blunt's office has stated that this will encourage those 90,000 people to get jobs and improve their lives.

Thank you, Governor Blunt, for setting me straight. Little did I realize that those folks on Medicaid just lacked the desire to get better jobs and better lives.

For example, Angel Bridgewater has a $6.70-per-hour McDonald's job that makes her ineligible for state medical aid. Despite supporting three children, she now has to make less than $86 each week to qualify for Medicaid. Before the cuts, she qualified while earning about $300 a week. Now she'll finally be able to take that CFO job at the local multinational conglomerate that she's had her eye on for so very long -- and all because Governor Blunt showed her the way.

I know states want to (need to?) cut Medicaid budgets, but claiming that recipients of such aid just lack the proper motivation to get better jobs is insulting. Perhaps the "show me" state needs to show a little more understanding for its needier citizens.


On The Mark -- Because They Can

Hmmmm. I need to revisit my business plan. I’m a consultant, a service business, and my bonus at the end of a contract is when a client renews for the next year. Halliburton, on the other hand, is putting the rest of us service companies to shame. The Army, on Tuesday, rewarded Halliburton with $72 million in BONUSES for logistics work in Iraq.

By the way, in case you’ve lost count, that’s over and above the more than $7 BILLION that Halliburton has earned from the military since 2001.

As New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg said in the Los Angeles Times, “It is outrageous that the Bush administration would give Halliburton a bonus after we have seen its overcharges, sloppy accounting and kickback schemes in Iraq…Giving Halliburton a bonus is like giving your worst employee a raise” (which actually isn’t a very good example because I’ve seen that happen a couple times).

“Outrageous,” of course, is the operative word. However, in this administration, it’s a word that’s been used so many times that it’s lost any impact. It’s become as common as “the” and “and.” In fact, a synonym for “outrageous” in this administration could be “commonplace.” Try substituting this word for outrageous in the paragraph above.

See, it works. And you thought I was just being sarcastic.

How does something this “commonplace” happen? Because they can.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Retiring Retirement

“Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt."
Herbert Hoover (1874-1964), 31st president of the United States

The pension scandal that is United Airlines is nothing short of criminal. In Federal Bankruptcy Court, the judge ruled that United Airlines is no longer responsible for its pension plans. The company made a promise to its employees and the courts have now allowed the company to break it. Not only does United get to walk away from their debt to employees, but also they get to have the government pay off the debt, but employees only receive a percentage.

However, United Chief Executive Officer will continue to receive his million dollar pay check, but most importantly he gets to keep is $4.5 million guarantee retirement package. Now the other airlines USAir, Delta are lining up to skip out on their debt. In 2002, it was Bethlehem Steel.

I don’t believe in conspiracies, but I am starting to think that there is a boys-on-the-bus* mentality going on here. The government and the corporations are lining up to rid employees and citizens of benefits. There will no longer be a safety net for citizens of the richest and most prosperous country. Now it is Darwinian survival for a country that doesn’t even believe in the Darwinian Theory.

Retirement was created during the Roosevelt administration during the depression to help get younger workers employed. Today, projections for an aging society show there will not be enough workers to go around. So, in order to keep businesses functioning, they systematically reduce the ability of people to retire.

Look how hard President George Bush is pushing his empty Social Security plan for private accounts and how companies that are not bankrupt are changing their plans from defined-benefit plans to defined-contribution plans like 401(k) programs. IBM was recently the most egregious in trying to change the rules in mid-stream for its employees until the court made them grandfather in some sort of cut off period. Other companies have been quietly changing the rules on retirement. This is no longer your fathers’ compassionate country.

It may not be a conspiracy, but there is a domino effect that is in motion to retire retirement.

*“Boys on the Bus” by Timothy Crouse about the 1972 presidential election coverage when reporters tended to follow one another rather than report original stories of the campaign.

Oh No, Not You Again

Went out walkin' through the wood the other day
And the world was a carpet laid before me
The buds were bursting and the air smelled sweet and strange
And it seemed about a hundred years ago

“100 Years Ago.” Mick Jagger/Keith Richard, The Rolling Stones

While on the topic of retirement... The Rolling Stones have announced yet another tour. You have to give the old guys credit for not retiring 20 years ago and putting on their fifth farewell tour.

The Stones, while I love their music, are becoming a parody of themselves. They could age gracefully and possibly do acoustic versions of their songs, but Mick Jagger continues to jump and strut and sing about sex as if he were a teenager, rather than just being rich and able to afford young women.

Who is Jagger kidding? He said the band will "dig into the catalogue" for this tour. Hello, they have been mining their rich catalogue for 20 years already.

They have a new song titled “Oh No, Not You Again.” That should be the name of this tour and Paul McCartney’s.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

On The Mark -- Sleep in Peace

I’m not afraid to admit it. Married or living together, sleeping together is silly, unproductive, and probably takes years off of your life. I have a couple uncles who have done it right. They sleep in separate beds from their wives, but then they have a “love” room with a nice king-sized bed that they use when the urge strikes. I’m sure they’ve wound up together in the morning once in a while.

One cannot get a good night’s rest while another is occupying your bed. It’s as simple as that. The incessant snoring. The tossing and turning. Talking in your sleep. Getting up to go to the bathroom. The accidental elbow in the ribs, or the kick to the thigh. Coughing. Sneezing. Moaning (for the wrong reasons). That tension that hangs over you heavier than a blanket when you’re not getting along so well. And, if you’ve had baked beans for dinner…well, we all know what that’s all about.

Other than making love, give me one good reason why two people should sleep in the same bed. One.

After sharing the same bed for 12 some years, I’ve been enjoying my solo bed experience for the past 18 months. I’m loving every second of it and I’m sleeping like a rock. When I watch an old episode of Ozzie & Harriet or Luci & Desi, I see that they have their separate beds and it makes me wonder how many of our older generations slept separately as a matter of practice.

One day I’ll get married again, probably. I sure hope she understands. I realize it may be a deal breaker. But I’m afraid, at this stage in my life, that the bed will probably win out.

Cross-Town Traffic

Rush hour: that hour when traffic is almost at a standstill.
J. C. Morton (1893 - 1979), British journalist

The story on traffic congestion that reports Los Angeles motorists sit in traffic an average of 93 hours a year involves data that is almost two years old. If I spent only 93 hours a year in traffic I would be delighted. Ninety-three hours is only 47 days of drive time for me on normal days. When there are accidents or rain, I can do 93 hours in even less days.

In just one-year’s time, I can tell that traffic has increased on my drive by at least 15 minutes. I have to leave the house 15 minutes earlier today, than I did last year at the same time, or my drive time increases by almost 30 minutes.

Traffic is a real problem and politicians don't seem to do anything about it.

Monday, May 09, 2005

On The Mark -- Don't Make Me Send You to the Gulag

When President Bush holds a “town hall” meeting in the United States it’s been reported that these events are well-scripted and the attendees are screened and approved in advance (i.e., there won’t be any worries about tough or inappropriate questions). Really, it’s just an advertisement for the administration’s policies disguised as an open meeting.

Abroad, it’s a little more difficult to script these types of meetings. In Holland, while on his way to Moscow for the Victory Day festivities, Bush participated in an unscripted youth roundtable with some of Holland’s citizens.

The first question was from a young woman who (in summary) wanted to know about new laws that have negatively affected civil liberties in the U.S. since 9/11 and if the U.S. would ever revert to the old laws if terrorism concerns lessened. The second questioner said he had recently received a brochure from a group in the U.S. seeking donations to help the poor in America. The questioner wanted to know (after commenting that the U.S. has been involved in many wars) what was the “balance between the U.S. responsibility to the world and the responsibility to your own people?”

The third question…well, nobody knows outside of the attendees from Holland. You see, after the second question, all of the journalists were escorted from the room. They were no longer invited to listen to the queries of Holland’s youth, but more important, they were not allowed to hear Bush’s unscripted responses.

Can you imagine the scene – in the middle of a Q&A conference, men in dark blue suits are walking up to anyone with a piece of paper and pen and whispering in their ears: you must leave now. Or what, be sent to a Gulag? Or what, suddenly disappear and never be heard from again?

Sometimes Russia’s Putin has a point when he says the U.S. should take a look at its own freedom of the press and democracy before it starts criticizing other nations.

An Open Letter to the Guy with the Big Sign on the Street Corner

Dear Sir,

It has always baffled me that, come Sunday morning, there are hordes of red-shirted legions hawking the mass-produced homes of the various real estate conglomerates. Baffled, I should say, not because I doubt the ability of those comglomerates to foist their small-parcel no-yard quick-build cookie-cutter homes on unsuspecting first-time buyers, but rather baffled by the ability of those selfsame conglomerates to acquire and retain such talent.

With what finesse do you twirl that sign in your hand! With what nonchalant grace do you intermittently pause, holding it steady for passing drivers to better read! With what... je ne sais quoi do you deftly spin and twist, toss and catch, flip and turn that oversized arrow! You, sir, are the very future of marketing, staring me right in the face as I turn left at this busy intersection.

Focused direct mail? Bah! Radio spots? Pshaw! Thought-provoking advertisements in market-focused publications? Hogwash!

One small question, though, before you turn back to your life of glamour and acclaim: have you considered how unstable your current employment is, given that you can -- at any time -- be replaced by a stick?


The guy who made that smarmy, superior face as he drove past you this morning (that is to say, me)

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.
Jewish Proverb.

Bravo Daughter. Daughter found out Friday morning that she was invited as one out of 26 students in California’s State University system, to attend the Panetta Institute, which as the site says, serves as a non-partisan center for the study of public policy aimed at helping our communities and our country meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

She was the only one out the entire university of 15,000 plus students to receive such an honor. Not only did she have to be approved by the political science department, she also had to be approved by the president of the university. She selected her university with the goal of attaining this internship four years ago.

As you may recall, Daughter recently returned from studying aboard where she met former President Bill Clinton, who shook her hand and even while late for a dinner posed for a picture. Democratic strategist James Carville who was also with Clinton took a few minutes to chat with Daughter. After sending her parents the pictures, she also sent them to her Political Science Department Chair, who has been nothing but encouraging to Daughter since her arrival on campus.

Daughter will attend the institute’s Congressional Intern Program that begins with an intensive two-week course at California State University, Monterey Bay with Leon Panetta and other seasoned veterans explaining how the legislative process actually works. Then each intern is assigned to a Capitol Hill office of a member of the California congressional delegation to work for two and a half months.

This is the part Daughter’s parents really like: The Institute covers all program costs including air travel, housing in Washington, D.C. Daughter will earn 20 semester credits and receive a stipend to help cover other expenses.

Mother’s Day. Just like the athletes on TV, “hi mom.” I would write about you and tell everyone how wonderful you are, but I know you are rather particular about your privacy, so you will have to settle for a card and dinner today.

One of my absolute favorite sites Bitch.Ph.D. has a nice piece titled “Mother’s Day Weekend” on the origin of Mother’s Day. She points out:

Specifically, Mother's Day was originally a pro-life holiday in the true sense of the word: it claimed mothers as life-givers not in order to deny them rights over their own bodies, but to advocate against killing their sons in war.

Freeway Shooter. There have been five or six freeway shootings on the Southern California freeways, which is a very serious problem. However, in order for me to deal with this, since I drive 80 miles a day on our congested highways; I have to have some fun with it.

I mentioned to a friend about how the L.A. Shooter should aim at cell phone users who inconsiderately slow traffic while they gab. If that were the case, he said he would immediately enlist like the minute men on the Mexican border. I think many of us would like to see open season on cell phone users.

Wife Sick, Husband Tardy... Both Happy

I had to go in late to work a few days this week (and get off early, when I could) when my wife took ill. Not anything serious -- a sinus infection in the chest and conjunctivitis in both eyes -- but it kept her off her feet, out of the driver's seat, and unable to perform her core duties at this juncture in her life: taking care of our three young daughters.

I slowly came to a realization about why I got an odd look from co-workers when I mentioned my wife's illness as the cause of my tardiness. In their minds, a sick wife does what a sick husband would do: she takes a day off of work to get well. The kids would do their usual thing, which is apparently (in today's world) school or day care or hanging with the au pair. My wife and I don't have that sort of thing going.

As faithful readers of Toner Mishap know, my wife is a rabbi. Very faithful readers will know she is not currently a full-time rabbi for anyone but me and our three girls; she is committed full-time to their well-being, and mine as well. So when she gets sick, the kids are out of luck -- the baby has no one to change her diapers, the middle child has no one to play with or fix her lunch, and the oldest is in a carpool that doesn't go anywhere without my wife. WIth her unable to focus her bleary reddened eyes, and unable to take a breath without coughing like a seasoned smoker of forty years, it fell to me to pick up the slack.

So it's not that my wife's illness makes her incapable of self-care -- it's that the three youngsters who rely on her every minute of every day would not have their needs met... and so I did what I could to fill her shoes, which is why I spent a lot of time this week working at home late at night and into the wee hours of the morning.

That said, at Mothers' Day I can't easily pay tribute to my lovely, talented, intelligent, ordained, and nurturing wife (but I will try). She is my partner and my love, my high school girlfriend, my fellow world traveler, my soul mate, my beshert, and my everything. And six years ago (plus a month or so) we became parents for the first time, and then a second and a third in the years that followed.

There is no one better at what she does, and no one I would rather spend the rest of my life with... she is the clichéd glue which holds our family together, and I wish her the happiest of Mothers' Days.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

How Not to Design a Logo

Thanks, BoingBoing, for bringing my attention to what is possibly the most poorly designed logo for an Oriental studies department (or any department, or just anything) ever. You can see the stylized Asian building in front of the red "rising sun" motif, right? If you try really hard?

And it's real, though two years old; click the logo to check out the site... which is actually now defunct, apparently.

Thoughts About God's Infinite Being

Just read Julius Lester's The Autobiography of God this week; I'm apparently on a "female rabbi novel" kick right now, having also recently completed this. Lester's novel is about a mid-life rabbi who discovers that she may have some very important (and strange) tasks to perform in her life, and it was a good read for someone who's married to a rabbi. Probably even if you're not.

Lester brings up two ideas in his novel that I wanted to briefly share, perhaps to elicit your thoughts...
1. God created man and woman in God's own image. We are capable of evil; is God, then, capable of evil?

2. God is infinite. Does that mean that God encompasses all good and evil? If not, how can God truly be infinite?
One more book recommendation -- an "oldie but goodie," as they say. Jeremy Leven's Satan: His Psychotherapy and Cure by the Unfortunate Dr. Kassler, J.S.P.S is a riotous novel in which Satan contacts a psychotherapist and then goes through analysis, dicussing such topics as his bad relationship with God, the whole thing with Job, and the reasons for his rebellion against Heaven.

P.S. None of the links here are self-serving kick-back type links; I get no money if you order the books. For that matter, feel free not to buy from Amazon even if you do want to buy the books.

Sorry Reid Apologized

It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.
P. G. Wodehouse (1881 - 1975), writer, humorist

What the Senate's top Democrat, Harry M. Reid did was weak. What he said about George W. Bush was right on target.

According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, Reid said, “The man's father is a wonderful human being," Reid said in response to a question about Bush's policies. "I think this guy is a loser. He's driving this country into bankruptcy," Reid said, referring to the deficit. "He's got us in this intractable war in Iraq where we now have about 1,600 American soldiers dead and another 15,000 injured."

Reid apologized because there has been a long-standing tradition that the opposition party customarily does not criticize the president when he is abroad. However, this administration has been lying and twisting the truth that I would say all bets are off, so to say you are sorry when you are speaking the truth is not a sign of strength.

I am sorry Reid apologized

Friday, May 06, 2005

DeLay Acting Repentant

God may pardon you, but I never can.
Elizabeth I (1533 - 1603), English monarch

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is now going the public forgiveness route.

According to the Washington Post, DeLay appeared in the ornate Caucus Room of the Cannon House Office Building during the 54th annual National Day of Prayer gathering on Capitol Hill. "If we spent less time ducking responsibility and more time welcoming it. If we spent less time on our soapboxes and more time on our knees." DeLay drew appreciative smiles when he added, "For in God, all things are possible, ladies and gentlemen. And even greatness from lowly sinners like you and me -- especially me."

DeLay has no shame. He acted as if he were a mafia don in the House and now that his shenanigans are being exposed and people are realizing that he might be a bully, a liar or simply just another politician on the take, he wants his constituents to forgive him.

I would like to see DeLay, the sinner on his knees – in a penitentiary scrubbing the bathrooms with a toothbrush.